Friday, April 5, 2013
Where Your New Friends Are
It’s barely one month away from four years since the last time I kissed my sweet wife. Without my intent and certainly without my permission, the sharp memories of the weeks leading up to that kiss have been invading my thoughts relentlessly: the cough, the desperate call to our doctor, hospice, the last trip to MD Anderson, friends everywhere, the moment that time stood still, then emptiness. Looking back on these past four years plus the 850 days we spent dealing with the illness, it feels like I’m looking back on a lifetime.
I’m surprised at how much my recollections of those indelible moments hurt, despite all the hard-won emotional mileage. The pain is not as sharp as it used to be. But most importantly, and superseding any pain, I know I’m not alone in my hurt, no matter how dark the cave of loneliness may seem. There are others – many others – who walk the same path as me. Numerous lovers have come before me and many heartbroken souls follow now in my footsteps. We are many, we are still in love and we are hurting. But we are not alone. For the suffering soul, knowing that simple fact is magic.
On Friday, August 12, 2011, I was welcomed into a new family – a family I already belonged to but just didn’t realize it. On that day, I walked into a room filled with widows and widowers who knew and were living the same life I was living. There were tears. There was understanding. There was laughing. And, best of all, there was acceptance – no judging, no averting eyes, no blames, no sad looks, no avoidance – just acceptance. On January 5, 2007 Maggie and me – our lives - were knocked off balance. On August 12, 2011 my life was tipped back toward center. Camp Widow and the people I met there changed my life.
Two weeks from now, a wonderful group of widows and widowers will descend on Myrtle Beach. There will be tears, laughter, drinking and merriment. Best of all, there will be compassion and understanding. If you have lost your companion – married or not – you should be there. There, you will find more healing than you’ll find in 20 years on your own. There, you will find friends who understand you more than you can understand yourself. There, you’ll find that you’re not alone. There you will find a new beginning.